On Sunday we started a new series in 1 Corinthians. Corinth was a prominent city known for its wealth and immorality. Paul visited Corinth (for a year and a half) on his second missionary journey, and three years later, on his third missionary journey, while in Ephesus, he wrote two letters to the Corinthian congregation. The church was fascinated with personalities and preferences, which caused strife. They had lost sight of what is most important. Some followed Paul, some Apollos, and some Peter. Paul reminds them that it is not about personalities, programs, or preferences, it is about Jesus. Jesus Christ is mentioned ten times in the first ten verses. The church gets divided and distracted when we are:
Filled with Pride
We did not call God, He called us. Look at verses 1, 9, and 26. Notice the repeated use of the word “called” or “calling.” I often hear people say, “I found God.” I know what they mean but God was not lost. We were! Salvation is a gift. There is nothing we could do on our own to deserve or earn it. When pride walks in, God walks out. Proverbs 6:17 says the Lord hates a proud look. We live in a selfish society that is consumed with self-centeredness, self-confidence, and self-importance. We should not swallow our pride, we should spit it out! Don’t put your confidence in or be arrogant over where you went to school, your educational degree, pedigree, resume, or accomplishments. Apart from Him we can do nothing! The last verse of chapter 1 says, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord” (v. 31).
Focused on Personalities
In verse 10 Paul pleads with the church to let no divisions be among them. He elaborates in verses 11-13, referencing how they’d sided with personalities. They got their eyes off Christ and on cliques. Jesus is the great unifier. Christ is not divided. The Trinity is not divided. Division is of the devil! His strategy is to divide and conquer, to drive a wedge between relationships. We can have honest differences without division. Unity is not uniformity, but when it comes to doctrine and decisions the church has to be united. On secondary issues we will differ. If it is not a moral issue or a doctrinal issue it is not worth fighting about! John Wesley said it best, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.” We need to cry out for God’s love because without it we cannot love one another. The church must confess the sin of division, jealousy, envy, anger, bitterness, hatred, racism, unforgiveness, and comparison. We are told to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). The bible says, “How good and how pleasant it is for the brethren to dwell together in unity… for there the Lord commanded the blessing, life forevermore” (Ps. 133:1, 3). Should we have diversity? YES. Division? NO. We don’t have to drink the same coffee or drive the same car, but we do have to follow the same Christ! We must resist anything that threatens our unity.
Forget our Purpose
Don’t get tripped up over methodology. The purpose of the church is to share the message of the gospel. We must not let any other message get in the way of the only message that saves! In verses 18-21, Paul reminds the Corinthians of the cross. The message of Christ crucified is what saves. “Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God” (v. 24). “There is power, power wonder working power in the precious blood of the Lamb.” There is also wisdom. The experts, intellectuals, philosophers and debaters have not found the answer to the world’s problems. They cannot help us know God in a personal way. The answer is the cross. Salvation will come to you when God calls and when you believe.
We have all seen children fight over a ball or toy. I mean, swinging fists at each other over it! We think, how ridiculous, childish, immature! That is what God must think when he looks down from heaven at some of the things we argue and get divided over at home, work, and church. Like I prayed last week at a National Day of Prayer gathering, “God forgive our wicked hearts. Forgive us for being self-indulgent and self-sufficient. Forgive us of our pride. Forgive us for seeking power, pleasure, position, prestige, political correctness, and seeking the praise of man. You must increase and we must decrease.”